Mary, Jesus' mother, is a remarkable example of quiet, resilient faith and courage in the face of adversity. She was witness to our Lord and Savior in a unique way.
Sarah Jakes, a mom herself, examines the life of Mary--and through Mary, Jesus--to better understand what a life of faith looks like. Maybe you struggle to trust God. Perhaps fears keep you from the joy God wants for you. Or maybe the thought of raising little ones overwhelms you. Through Mary, discover the freedom that only true faith can bring.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
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Lessons from the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom
By SARAH D. JAKES
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2015 Sarah D. Jakes, LLC
All rights reserved.
anxious and pregnant
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"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" Luke 1:45
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You know better than anyone that the gift of life is a miracle. In your case, an angel visited you, and instantaneously you were pregnant by the Holy Spirit. There's not a womb before you or since that can contend with that. But that doesn't downplay the biological miracle of pregnancy. A woman is born with one to two million eggs in her body. As a woman ages, those eggs begin to die off and decrease. The process of one of those eggs making contact with a man's sperm can only be described as a phenomenon.
Once a month a woman's ovary releases an egg. A man's sperm must fertilize that egg, or it will be discarded through her menstrual cycle. A man releases at least forty million sperm each time he ejaculates, yet only one will have the strength to travel through a woman's reproductive system and make contact with the egg. All of this must take place within twenty-four hours of the egg's release from the ovary, before the egg becomes unviable. From there the fertilized egg must travel to the woman's uterus, implant in the uterine wall, and then begin a nine-month process of development.
In a world inundated with adorable baby faces, tiny little clothes, and infant giggles, it can be easy to lose sight of the miraculous journey that must take place from conception to parenting. As a mother of two and stepmother to three, it doesn't escape me how humbling the gift of motherhood is. There's no way to fully explain the state of awe a woman finds herself in when she learns her body will transform a cluster of cells into a person. There are some questions that are universal regardless of your age, socioeconomic level, or marital status.
Is my body strong enough to handle this? Should I rest or push myself to continue like normal? What will the baby look like? When will I feel it kick? Who do I tell first? Should I wait to tell at all? How will my family react? Will my mother try to take over? Will this baby bridge the divide between my sister and me? How do I choose a doctor? Will the hospital nurses be nice? Baby names? Boy or girl? Baby shower?
Will I be prepared to handle all that lies ahead?
There are a million questions forming in the minds of expectant mothers. Swimming in a sea of excitement, anxiety, joy, fear, hope, and stress is a woman who knows that life has forever changed, but who can't pinpoint exactly when it will all begin. Most women begin to think of family or friends who've recently given birth or are a few months ahead of them in pregnancy. Their sisterhood of motherhood is a gift that only those brave enough to be vulnerable fully understand. There's much wisdom to be gleaned simply by having someone who understands exactly where you've been and what you're going through.
After experiencing my own pregnancies and sea of questions, I feel I understand you a bit better. Your sisterhood in motherhood was your cousin Elizabeth. As soon as you came to visit her after learning the news of your pregnancy, the baby inside her womb leaped. Before you could even begin to express to her your reaction, she described how blessed you would be because you believed the Lord would fulfill His promises to you.
Initially, I didn't understand why it would be so difficult for you to believe; after all, an angel appeared to deliver your news. It would seem quite easy to believe after an experience like that. This just goes to show how much I've taken for granted the miracle of pregnancy. The reality is that much of the second-guessing women experience upon learning of their pregnancy is rooted in disbelief. Unsure of our ability to carry and nurture, we begin weighing all the possible mistakes or misfortune that we could experience. Yet you showed such courage and faith to trust that God would not set a miracle in motion without a plan for completion. What strength one must possess to see the answers to their questions by faith! For every hurdle, jungle, and mountain the trail of motherhood presents for us, God has made a provision that will allow our spirits to prosper in hope.
I certainly wish I could have found those words when I ended my call with my friend Misty two months ago. She was beginning to feel like it would take more than a miracle to adjust to becoming a mom again.
I can remember exactly what I was doing when I found out. She called me from her office at the firm where she works. Whispering into the receiver so that she couldn't be overheard, she asked, "What's your calendar like in April?"
"Misty, I don't even know what I'm eating for lunch today. I definitely don't know what I'm doing months from now," I replied.
She chuckled at my response before dropping the bomb, "Well, will you come visit me at the hospital? I'm going to have a baby. I hear the cafeteria has great food!"
Surprised at the announcement, I immediately screamed my congratulations at the top of my lungs. "WE'RE HAVING A BABY!!!" I yelled. After my exclamation, all I could hear was her laughing. I imagined her clamoring for buttons to turn the volume down on her office line while she giggled through the laundry list of questions I had: "How far along are you? When did you find out? What are you hoping for, and don't just give me the 'healthy baby' line!" One-by-one in rapid-fire style, I asked her everything that came to mind.
Just as quickly she replied: "About five weeks. This morning. You're the first person I called. A girl."
After covering baby names and allowing me a ten-minute monologue expressing my envy that her stomach would no longer be confined by Spanx, girdles, and other control-top devices, we ended our call. I was so happy for her!
We grew up in church. We were taught to believe that babies are a blessing. Sure, there were complicated instances of new life coming into the world. Many a woman, like me, first held her child with no ring on her finger, and confused that sentiment a bit. On one hand, every life is a gift from God, but I believe it became difficult not to allow the sin to overcloud the joy. Too often we see the baby thrown out with the baby water. Luckily for Misty, she wouldn't have to face any of those predicaments. She was doing things the "right" way.
I believe that's why I was so surprised when I hung up from our latest call. She called me moments after I'd finished working out at the gym. I placed the phone on mute while I caught my breath and listened to my friend confide her secret fears to me. "Honestly, it's hard to be excited about the baby these days...."
I couldn't imagine what worries she had. Before she could finish her sentence, I began searching for any reason she should be disappointed or afraid. This would be baby number four for her, so she'd be pretty well prepared for what to expect. Misty was just about to celebrate her fifteen-year wedding anniversary. She wouldn't be worrying about the judgment that can come with being a single mother. I ran scenario after scenario through my head, and all I could see was a white picket fence.
When my mind stopped racing long enough to ask her what her concerns were, it all came out. Misty was having a hard time smiling about the baby when she was already consumed with worry about providing for the mouths outside of her tummy. They would have to find somewhere new to live, or make do with the limited space in their home. Her husband had lost his job about a year earlier, and finding consistent income proved to require more patience than either of them anticipated. She told me that she was doing the best she possibly could to be optimistic, but the last week had been particularly difficult to find the rainbow in the midst of her storm.
I'm hardly ever at a loss for words, but I truly didn't know what to tell her. I pacified her with the age-old responses I'm sure she was prepared to hear: "It'll all work out. Everything will be okay!" I continued to spew out every cliché I could find until she was the one convincing me that everything would work out. When we hung up the phone, I couldn't help but ask God why there was no clear formula to peace. While my friend, for all intents and purposes, did things the "right" way, she still had obstacles to face.
I was seeing her life through my insecurities. I assumed that, because she didn't have the struggles I was familiar with, she didn't struggle at all. We miss the opportunity to be compassionate when we confine people to our own experiences. Misty helped me to realize that we aren't just puzzle pieces looking to create the perfect picture. We're souls seeking the strength to accept — in spite of how we've been bent and curved — that our life still has purpose.
Life is difficult when you have an audience to watch you battle, but it's dangerous when you have an internal battle no one can witness. My life was difficult as a young teen mom. All I desired was to get married so that I wouldn't feel the haunting judgment from others. I couldn't pretend everything was okay, because the evidence of life had already dispelled that myth.
What do you do when you have a life someone else would envy, but you can't bear to admit that it's not as easy as it looks? It's hard to not feel the distress that comes with bringing a life into the world when you consider the potential calamity he or she will have to face. We are expected to create an environment where our children can grow and flourish under our care. But often we're too stifled by our own insecurities to allow them any room to grow. Having given up on ourselves, our task becomes to at minimum provide better for them than we had for ourselves.
I will never forget visiting my mother in the middle of a difficult time in my first marriage. I hadn't said a word, but when my mother saw my face and then peered into the eyes of my daughter, she knew something was wrong. At that time she warned me that if I didn't come out of my depression, I was going to take my daughter into it with me. My daughter, Makenzie, was emulating the expressions of my pain — no matter how well I thought I was doing at shielding her. The reality is, you can't constantly be around someone without their seeing every part of you, even the parts that still hurt.
If you do not confront your pain, you will spread it. My dear friend was giving me the opportunity to fight with her, but I couldn't see beyond my own scars. When she mentioned her frustrations, I felt my own issues leap, but I didn't tell her that. Our situations were very different. I didn't feel my experiences would be relatable to her. I wanted to give Misty some type of confirmation that even though things looked problematic on paper, God would work things out. I just didn't believe sharing what happened on the inside of me would help her. I knew reviving her faith wasn't about just her but about the lives observing her as well
We can't be faithless and raise faithful children.
Mary, when Gabriel informed you that God had chosen you to carry His Son, He also revealed that your cousin Elizabeth was expecting as well. Though you were just receiving the news, she was already six months pregnant. Sometimes those closest to us face obstacles before we do so that we can learn from them. We can't be ashamed to share our lessons even though we know everyone's test will be different. I felt guilty. I wanted to give Misty a reason to believe, but I couldn't see beyond my own past.
You could've felt bitterness that Elizabeth was already married when she conceived. Elizabeth could've envied you that she wasn't chosen to give birth to Christ. Elizabeth was older and had been barren. You were young and a virgin. Gabriel visited you to inform you of your pregnancy, but he had visited Elizabeth's husband to deliver their news. Amid all the similarities, there were these small but significant differences. Still, your faith to believe was the divine bond that held you together.
Gabriel used Elizabeth's pregnancy to underscore to you that nothing is impossible with God (see Luke 1:37). Your salutation to Elizabeth after learning the news of your future child filled her with the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:41). There was no way you could know what happened on the inside of her unless she was willing to be vulnerable enough to share it with you. You never would have suspected that your words filled her with joy until she told you. The transparency in your friendship afforded you the opportunity to confirm one another's faith.
That's what I want to do with Misty. That's all I desire to do with my children. I want my little ones to enjoy seeing their fears in the rearview mirror of their destiny. One day my children will realize that anxiety magnifies the size of our obstacles, but faith gives us the power to rise above our struggles. Love builds a tunnel from one soul to another. We must be careful what we let in and sure about what we release. When we feel those we are connected to are allowing fear into their hearts, we can combat it by allowing more faith, love, and hope to gush through our channel. Our fears can drown in the flood of our promise, but we must be willing to believe. We can't become like those who choose to let fear dilute the power of their promise.
The leap in my womb may be the confirmation someone else needs that she can believe. More than cliché reassurances of a better tomorrow, through transparency we offer our scars as evidence of survival. Sharing those imperfections with your children can be very scary. One day I'll ask you how you received the courage to tell Jesus your own truth, but until then, I want to thank you for sharing your moment with another believing woman. Elizabeth answered your question of "Why me?" with one simple answer: Because you believed.
I am learning that many of the rights and wrongs of motherhood come down to what we believe to be true. If we are wise, we will build children with only the bricks God hands us, not the rocks life has thrown at us. We will choose to believe God. No statistic, employer, bank statement, or matter of paternity can rob us of our promise. Unless we choose to believe it can.
We can't tell our children how to believe. We can only demonstrate how. I once believed in fear. I even believed in pain. I began to doubt love. I saw my hope slipping away, but then I was reminded that I had little eyes watching and small hearts in my hands. I may not be the best math tutor they'll ever have. I can't guarantee each meal will be a hit. But I pray each day that I will model a walk of faith for them and all those with whom I'm connected.
Excerpted from Dear Mary by SARAH D. JAKES. Copyright © 2015 Sarah D. Jakes, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Cora Jakes-Coleman 7
Dear Mothers 11
1 Anxious and Pregnant 13
2 I'm Still Learning 25
3 We Have Daddy Issues 37
4 My Child Is Different 51
5 I Didn't Make Dinner 61
6 Letting Grow 71
7 I'm a Working Mom 83
8 They're My Do-Over 95
9 Too Hurt to Parent 107
10 I Need a Village 119
11 Ends Don't Meet 129
12 From Joy to Grief 139
13 I Don't Have a Mom 151
14 Moms Hide in the Bathroom 161
15 Can We Have a Playdate? 171
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dear Mary: Lessons From the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom was an interesting book. I was a little confused by the title as I thought that there would be more from the viewpoint of Mary. Instead the book is a series of letters written to Mary by the author, Sarah Jakes. These letters help us to see our situations today in comparison to those that Mary dealt with. It is well-written and I enjoyed reading this style of book. I was given this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
I was given the the book Dear Mary: Lessons From the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom by Sarah Jakes for review from Bethany House Publishers, and I’m so glad I read it. It’s a collection of letters to Mary, asking her questions about motherhood that still pertain to mothering in modern times. I never thought of looking to Mary for mothering advice before, but as the “ultimate biblical mother figure,” she is definitely someone to look up to. As Sarah Jakes outlines, “I assumed that because she didn’t have the same struggles I was familiar with, she didn’t struggle at all, ” when referring to a fellow mother. This is exactly how I view Mary now, along with all of the other mother’s in the world. Just because our struggles aren’t the same, doesn’t mean we aren’t struggling. “We miss the opportunity to be compassionate when we confine people to our own experiences.” As a mom of a “difficult” or “different” child, this book also touched me. Reminding me that, “maybe our prayer shouldn’t be to change our children into people we can understand, but rather to have the patience to be still while we learn who they are.” Mary struggled through this with Jesus, understanding who her son was to grow up to be. And we struggle with it now, trying to let our children be who they are while still directing them and guiding them. “There is no way of guesstimating what discoveries we will unearth as we raise our children.” Jakes reminds us to not let our past mistakes be a gauge in how we react to our children. “I believe we become so afraid that our children will reflect our mistakes and issues that we unknowingly push them in that direction. If the only mold we use to form our children has been shaped by the negativity we’ve experienced, we limit the possibilities that exist for them.” This is so true, and I see it in day to day life with so many- accidentally pushing them toward what we want them to stay the farthest from. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our hand, as Mary did at the wedding at Cana- when Jesus did not think that his time had yet come, his mother knew because she trusted in God’s power in revealing his son. As mothers we have to not let our fears take over. “We cheat on God when we choose to have an affair with our fear.” I’ve been reading a lot about fear lately, and how worry can be a sin. We have to be careful to not let that fear and worry enter into our lives and spill over into the little ones looking to us for guidance. I really enjoyed this book. I loved the author’s story- as she shares her struggles as a teen mother, and later a single mom. She truly has a lot of experience to pull from, and uses it as a tool to help other mothers instead of using it as an excuse. She helps the reader ask important questions and reminds us to take care of ourselves so we can better take care of our families. “The only way to successfully give others our time, attention, and dedication is from the overflow of what we give ourselves. Too often we give from our already depleted souls and then have nothing left for us, let alone our relationship with God.” If you’re looking for a Bible based parenting book, with great stories and advice- pick up this book. I would definitely recommend it to my fellow Mommas or soon-to-be parents. Who better to receive advice from than the mother of Jesus?
In Dear Mary, Sarah Jakes writes letters to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She highlights Mary’s courage, as an unwed teenager, to accept the responsibility of birthing and raising the Son of God. She reflects on the life of Mary and draws out encouragement for modern-day mothers. In her writing, Jakes wonders how Mary felt about various parenting challenges and joys and compares these feelings to her modern-day experiences as a mother of two. I appreciated Jakes’ willingness to ask questions and wonder about Mary’s thoughts and experiences, but I also felt like Jakes took some liberties with Mary’s story. Perhaps, as Jakes indicates, Jesus was influenced and motivated by Mary to follow God’s purpose for his life on earth. Jesus was, after all, fully God and fully human. But scripture does not hold much information about Mary or how she raised Jesus. Therefore, we are left to wonder how much teaching, training, and guiding he needed. It is important to note that I am not yet a mother, nor do I know whether I will experience motherhood at some point in the future. Surely this affects the way I read Dear Mary and processed Jakes reflections and leads me to be cautious about critiquing a book that may encourage others in ways I cannot understand personally. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.